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UPDATES- Sentenced to Jail for Sending Black Kids to Better (Whiter) School

January 25, 2011

Kelly Williams-Bolar broke the law.  She falsified documents to send her children- who are Black- to a school district they didn’t live in.

From Boyce Watkin’s Blog:

The jury deliberated for seven hours and the courtroom was packed as the sentence was handed down. She was convicted on two counts of tampering with court records after registering her two girls as living with Williams Bolar’s father when they actually lived with her. The family lived in the housing projects in Akron, Ohio, and the father’s address was in nearby Copley Township.

Additionally, Williams-Bolar’s father, Edward L. Williams, was charged with a fourth-degree felony of grand theft, in which he and his daughter are charged with defrauding the school system for two years of educational services for their girls. The court determined that sending their children to the wrong school was worth $30,500 in tuition.

In the eyes of the law, this case is cut and dry.  But when we talk about what is right and wrong morally, it’s not that simple.  We all know public education is inadequate and unequal in this country, even (or perhaps because of) more than 50 years after the oft-touted Brown v Board.  If you need a primer as to why the great equalizer failed to do so, watch “With All Deliberate Speed” (available for free on Hulu, so you really have no excuse).

I only heard about this case after the fact- Ms. Williams-Bolar has been convicted.  She’s going to jail- in fact she’s sitting in  jail cell right now.  Apparently no one thought to file an appeal and have her released in the meantime. So she’s in jail, as you’re reading this.  Her kids are without their mother, and worse, they’re without a quality education- the district in question booted them out when the lie was uncovered.

A part of me understands why school districts so carefully covet their resources and shun those, that by law, policy or practice aren’t entitled to it- in this case 2 Black girls.  Quality education in America[vsw id=”n6WTeVBzzpI” source=”youtube” width=”235″ height=”235″ autoplay=”no”] is not a right, if it were, every child would have access to a top-notch school.

Instead we have the achievement gap- on 1 side children succeed- on the other side, they don’t.  We know it’s not because of the ability of some children to learn at a higher level than others.  This is about resources, and when I say resources, I mean money.  Access.  High quality teachers. Magnet programs. Textbooks. Desks.  A safe, secure, nurturing environment conducive to successful learning.  I say it so many times I have it memorized.

As a mother of two black kids in public schools, I sympathize with Williams-Bolar.  My kids are lucky. When I realized that- simply because of our zip code my kids were going to be tracked into schools where they likely would not be successful, and likely would not go to college as a result- I moved my family to a different school district.  It cost more in living expenses.  It put us farther away from family and peer groups.  But they’re getting the education they’re worthy of.  Not everyone can do that.  I don’t fault Williams-Bolar for her decisions or her circumstance.  Sometimes things are beyond our control. For what it’s worth though, I was only able to get a higher paying job and move because I had a kick-ass education growing up.

But to prosecute her for a crime- I suppose that’s a choice. After all, she lied.  She cost taxpayers money- education ain’t free. Guess they want their money back, and since they can’t get knowledge and information out of those two little girls minds- money is clearly the next best thing.  $30,500.00.

Maybe the simple answer is for this mom to get a better job, to make more money.  That way she can pay her debt and if she’s lucky, in a couple years she’ll be able to move on up to the east side.


Ironically, painfully so, Williams-Bolar was going to school to become, of all things, a teacher.  She can kiss that goodbye.  As the judge in the case was more than eager to point out on the record during sentencing:

”Because of the felony conviction, you will not be allowed to get your teaching degree under Ohio law as it stands today,” the judge said. ”The court’s taking into consideration that is also a punishment that you will have to serve.”

How much does Williams-Bolar make in a year? Not enough. So why don’t we just stick her in a field and let her work it off that way?

Alright, that was harsh, but a bit of snark is apropos in this case.

I’m not about to make excuses for breaking the law.  Nor am I going to point out how many people do the exact same thing as what this mother did, and never get caught, or if they do, don’t go to jail for it.  It’s ironic, shameful, it’s simply pathetic that for some, the difference between quality education and NOT, is a lie, and if you tell the lie, you’re a criminal.

When such a thing is even possible, save the “American Dream” talking points for another day.

Update: She still sits in jail serving her sentence for sending her kids to a “different” school district. But the good news is that she had a visit by her state representatives. They’ve vowed to ensure that she gets her sought after job as a school teacher upon completion of her degree. h/t and @AllAboutRace

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Charlie Smith permalink
    January 25, 2011 3:14 pm

    This is a travesty. I am white. Over the years I have known scores of friends, relations, and neighbors who did this for a year or more. Very few were “caught”, and if they were, the district worked out some kind of repayment arrangement. I guess that’s what we mean by “white privilege”.

  2. January 25, 2011 3:40 pm

    Outrageous!!! We are posting this article on our facebook page which gets 500 views a day. People need to know about this.

    JAIL Exchange

  3. Karlie permalink
    January 25, 2011 8:43 pm

    What would it have cost for those kids to go to the school according to their address? How can they charge for theft of the full amount when at least some part of that would have been paid for those kids to go to the original school. This is bizarre.

  4. Roy Bean permalink
    January 26, 2011 12:43 am

    I’ll be doing that for a friend soon, for a fantastic six-year-old. Not quite the same, as the result is going to a different school in the same district. But we both pay a boatload of property tax, and I have no school aged kids of my own. Education comes at a cost no matter where it is. And fudging boundaries seems less than criminal, in any case.

  5. kentuckywoman2 permalink
    January 26, 2011 3:22 am

    This is morally wrong, and I think we all know it. The way we administer our school system is flawed. In my opinion, we should throw all school taxes into a general fund, and EVERY school should then get equal resources. That way, no school should be able to have better resources just because it’s located in a higher tax district. It would also help bring back neighborhood schools, which would allow low-income families a much better chance to participate in their children’s education in a much more comprehensive manner. I think if all schools were created equal, then all kids would have the opportunity for a decent education.

    What the legal system and the school system has done to this family is reprehensible. Jeers.

  6. January 26, 2011 10:36 am

    I’ve read the story over here, as well as at Rippa’s site, and am still in disbelief. This is one of those times where it’s so baffling, so mind-blowing, so disturbing, that it’s tough to formulate the words. She did what other parents would do, in the name of wanting the best for their children. Yes, it was against the law, but it’s still something that leaves me feeling some-kinda-way. It’s beyond sad…

  7. Ricardo Ignacio permalink
    January 26, 2011 2:36 pm

    I’ve KNOWN many people that have sent their kids to “WHITER” schools for REAL OPPORTUNITIES and when they got caught, they didn’t get arrested, but ONLY told them to move near, or work something out! THIS DOES NOT DESERVE JAIL TIME! What’s the crime? Wanting better for your children? And that better doesn’t NOT HURT ANYONE but ONLY BENEFITS EVERYONE, even the Government!

  8. Christine permalink
    January 27, 2011 6:55 am

    It appears to me that the mistake was made long before this case became an issue. Why weren’t the children living with their father in the “better” neighbborhood, and not with their mother in the “projects”?

  9. shamwowww permalink
    February 1, 2011 9:07 am

    So Christine, are you saying that if you live in the projects you are a bad parent and if you live in a “better” neighborhood you are a “better” parent? To ask why the kids were living with their mother completely misses the point of this story.

  10. February 1, 2011 10:51 am

    In addition, they were not living with their father, they were living with their grandfather, and I agree it misses the point.

  11. February 1, 2011 10:52 am

    Better yet, why do we have “good” neighborhoods and “bad” neighborhoods in this country? Oh right, the economic caste system. How silly of me to forget.

  12. February 16, 2011 6:49 pm

    The problem with our educational system is that there are too many people standing in the way of the lesson between teacher and student. There are too many politicians with an agenda to push standing in the way of the lesson between teacher and student. Education is not partisan. Education is not biased. Education is not even a privilege. It is a right. A right given to the majority and fought for by the minority. A right that should never have to be given back. It’s a damn shame one local election can turn such history on its head. But maybe this just proves history is always present and we’re never to far from living in the past.


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